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May 2020
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Speeches

D. Razakaria: The Family as a Foundation for Interreligious and International Peace

It's a privilege and an honor for me to address a few words on the importance of the family as a foundation for interreligious and international peace on the celebration of the International Day of Families 2011. In this presentation, I will bring the position of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church* on the matters of peace and family.

Peace

 I would like first to bring to you the position of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church on the promotion of peace:

It is right and proper for Christians to promote peace. The Seventh-day Adventist Church urges every nation to "beat its swords into plowshares" and its "spears into pruninghooks" (Isaiah 2:4). The church's Bible-based fundamental belief states that men and women were "created for the glory of God" and were "called to love Him and one another, and to care for their environment," not to destroy or hurt one another.

In a world filled with hate and struggle, a world of ideological strife and of military conflicts, Seventh-day Adventists desire to be known as peacemakers and work for worldwide justice and peace under God as the head of a new humanity.2

From both a Christian and practical perspective, any lasting peace involves at least four ingredients: dialogue, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Dialogue - There needs to be dialogue and discussion in place of diatribe and the cry for war. Lasting peace does not result from violent means but is achieved by negotiation, dialogue, and, inevitably, political compromise. In the long run, reasoned discourse has superior authority over military force. In particular, Christians should always be ready to "reason together," as the Bible says.

 Justice - Unfortunately, the world is rampant with injustice and a fallout of injustice is strife. Justice and peace join hands, as do injustice and war.

 Forgiveness - Forgiveness is usually thought of as necessary to heal broken interpersonal relationships. If there is to be peace, it is vital to drop the burdens of the past, to move beyond well-worn battle grounds, and to work toward reconciliation. At a minimum, this requires overlooking past injustices and violence; at its best, it involves forgiveness which absorbs the pain without retaliating.

Reconciliation - Forgiveness provides a foundation for reconciliation and the accompanying restoration of relationships that have become estranged and hostile. Reconciliation is the only way to success on the road to cooperation, harmony, and peace.

We appeal to Christians and people of good will all around the world to take an active role in making and sustaining peace, thus being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

In the meantime, we need, in all relationships, to follow the golden rule, which asks us to do unto others as we would wish them to do unto us (see Matthew 7:12), and not only love God, but love as God loves. (See 1 John 3:14, 15; 4:11, 20, 21.)3

In the setting of the International Day of Families, the theme of this year was "Confronting family poverty and social exclusion."

Approximately two-thirds of the world's population remains caught in a cycle of hunger-sickness-death. There are some who bear liability for their condition, but the majority of these individuals and families have been made destitute by political, economic, cultural, or social events largely beyond their control.

For the United Nations, the International Day of Families may become an opportunity for all countries to demonstrate support to families and to promote a better understanding of the functions, problems, strengths and needs of families.

According to the background note from the United Nations, poverty means more than income and material deprivation. I would add that family poverty may also mean lack of healthy relationship and peace in the family.

The same background note states that social exclusion can be seen as a form of poverty as they both originate in discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender, inequality, unbalanced development, unequal distribution of assets or unequal access to services.

Promoting healthy relationship and peace in the families would help in resolving the problems of family poverty and social exclusion and would also help in promoting interreligious and international peace.

Family

While preparing this presentation, I read the five recommendations of the Universal Peace Federation released on May 13, 2011, to honor UN resolution 52/81 of December 12, 1997, in which the United Nations General Assembly recognizes the need to strengthen and support families in performing their societal and developmental functions. I saw that there are similarities and complementarities on the affirmations of the Universal Peace Federation and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the matter of peace.4

Seventh-Day Adventists affirm that the family tie is the closest, the most tender and sacred of any human relationship on earth. God instituted the family as the primary provider of the warm and caring relationships for which the human heart yearns.

In the Christian family, the personal worth and dignity of each member is affirmed and safeguarded in an environment of respect, equality, openness, and love.

The Seventh-Day Adventists believe that God's ideals for marriage and family have been perverted.

The results are evidenced in lives and relationships that are broken, dysfunctional, and characterized by mistrust, conflict, hostility, and estrangement. Many family members, including parents and grandparents, but especially wives and children, suffer from family violence. We also have to say that many husbands suffer from such a family violence. Abuse, both emotional and physical, has reached epidemic proportions. The rising number of divorces signals a high degree of marital discord and unhappiness.

Because of that, many people are afraid of the idea or founding a legal family. For some persons, the family has become a battle field. When you are going to get married, you may hear such a question: You will be married against whom?

Families need to experience renewal and reformation in their relationships. This will help change the destructive attitudes and practices prevalent in many homes today. Through the power of God, family members are enabled to acknowledge their individual sinfulness, to accept each other's brokenness, and to receive God's redemptive healing in their lives and relationships.

Although some family relationships may fall short of the ideal, and restoration from damaging experiences may not be fully accomplished, where the love of God reigns, His Spirit will promote unity and harmony making such homes channels of life-giving joy and power in the church in the community and in the world.5

Conclusion

Considering these principles and ideals of peace and families, we all agree on the importance of the family as a foundation for interreligious and international peace. The question is how to communicate these values to the families that they are the foundation of peace in the world.

This is not a project of one or two years; it's a permanent education. It is necessary to establish a strategic plan and visualize what families would be like in ten years. What would happen if we target the youth from 15 to 30 years of age? Ten years from now, they will be adults and may become parents. Will they be able to grasp the values and model them in their families?

Many tools are available: schools, Internet, radio, television, seminars, etc. Each religious denomination uses one or more of these means to communicate the values of peace and families. It would be more helpful if there is more cooperation in devising common projects among the religious groups of each region of the globe.

* The Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church is a Christian church belonging to the Protestant group. The SDA people believe in the Bible, the Old and the New Testament. Most of the Christian churches have their day of worship on the first day of the week, Sunday. The Seventh-Day Adventists go to church the seventh day, which is Saturday. This is to respect the fourth of the Ten Commandments of the Bible, which asks to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. The word Adventist refers to the belief of the second coming of Jesus. The Christian church believes that Jesus came on earth two thousand years ago. He was dead but he also was raised up and went up to heaven. He promised to come back to take his people with him. This return is theologically called "the Advent" and the Adventists are those who believe in this promise. Presently, we have more than 16 million baptized members in 207 countries of the world. One of the particular focuses of the SDA is the defense of religious liberty. Since 1901, the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty has represented the Seventh-day Adventist Church to governments, religious bodies, and international organizations in supporting, protecting, and defending religious freedom and human rights for all people everywhere. The Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty also sponsors, on behalf of the church, the International Religious Liberty Association, a non-sectarian organization dedicated to the cause of religious freedom. Seventh-day Adventist leaders were the first to organize such an association, which serves as an umbrella for many regional and national religious liberty affiliates around the world. These connections bring involvement from Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Baptists, Mormons, and people of many other religious persuasions, working together for the religious freedom of all."1 In Quebec we have a membership of 6000 in 40 churches. I'm in charge of three of them.

Notes

1 Cf. http://www.adventist.org/mission-and-service/religious-liberty.html

 

2 This public statement was released by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, on July 5, 1990, at the General Conference session in Indianapolis, Indiana.

3 This statement was voted during the Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee on April 18, 2002 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

4 http://upf.org/united-nations/international-day-of-families/upf-activities/1924-universal-peace-federation-declaration-on-families

5 This public statement was released by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, on July 5, 1990, at the General Conference session in Indianapolis, Indiana.